Sheila Wilcoxson got her musical education in the church. She began singing at age 12 in Detroit. She moved to Portland in 1978, and shortly after her move west, she formed a 12-piece band, Sheila & the Boogiemen. By the early '80s, her band was one of the top draws on the Portland club scene, and opened shows for Robert Cray, Sam & Dave, and Queen Ida, among many other national touring acts. In 1989, she formed a new band, Back Porch Blues. She signed with the Portland blues label Burnside Records in 1992, and the group released its debut, Back to Basics, that same year. This small acoustic-oriented group won a slew of Portland-area awards, including Best New Blues Band, Best Blues Album, and Best Traditional Blues Act. Wilcoxson also received a Crystal Award from the Portland Music Association for Outstanding Blues Act in 1992. In the midst of developing her musical career around the Northwest, Wilcoxson also managed to receive her Ph.D. from Willamette University in Oregon. By 1994, she formed a new group, the Backwater Blues Band, and since then Sheila & Backwater Blues have been performing around the Northwest, and her career as a solo performer has also taken off. In 1996, she signed again with Burnside Records to record as a solo act. Backwater Blues, which showcases her considerable talents as a songwriter, arranger, pianist, and guitarist, was released in early 1997. Northwest area musicians who guest on Backwater Blues include Curtis Salgado, Janice Scroggins, Fritz Richmond, and Terry Robb. On Backwater Blues, Wilcoxson injects humor into the mix with originals like "Testosterone Poisoning," yet also interprets classic songs by Hoyt Axton, Mance Lipscomb, Bessie Smith, and Leadbelly. She covers Axton's "Sweet Misery," Smith's "Backwater Blues," and Leadbelly's "Looky Looky Yonder"/"Black Betty," as well as the traditional "John the Revelator." In 1998, the Memphis-based Blues Foundation recognized Wilcoxson's many years of efforts on the Portland and Seattle area scenes. The organization nominated her for Best Female Traditional Blues Artist of the Year.
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